Of art and artists

I have some artist friends and we talk about art and artists all the time. A few of them include: a musician (cello), a woodworker (studio furniture and sculpture), ceramic artist (vessels and sculpture), a dancer (modern and ethnic), a film director, a theater director, a landscape photographer, a writer (magazine/novel/essayist), and fashion designer among the most verbal. Most of them have been working and making a living in their art for more than 25 years. Most of them have gained some regional, national or international recognition.

Here are a few points from the conversations we have been having:

  1. Most of them did not set out to be an artist. Even the musician and the dancer came to their art later than high school.
  2. Most of them spent years working on technique, fundamentals, and basic craftsmanship in their chosen art.
  3. None of them (most in the 60s – 70s ) felt like they were at the top of their game. They were sure that their best work is yet to come.
  4. At one time or another, all of them had taught others in their chosen art.
  5. Most had wide ranging interests in many fields other than their art. A few were history buffs, some were gardeners, others were interested in psychology and other fields.
  6. Most of them did not pursue their art because they could make money, though a some have commercial endeavors to fund their artistic explorations.
  7. Public acceptance, while a consideration, most of them would still pursue their art if nobody bought, listened or viewed their work.
  8. Contrary to the popular conception of artists pursuing their work as “artistic expression” most of them talked about “personal exploration.” Conversations have revolved around “finding myself in art” or “discovering what and who I am” in their art.
  9. None of them considered themselves masters of their art. They were open to learning more, learning from others, and sharing insights.
  10. All of them had failures or major set backs at some point in their artistic careers. A couple have had catastrophic failures.
  11. All of them at one time or another, questioned whether they were meant to pursue their art.
  12. All of them felt compelled to pursue their chosen field of art, it was something they could not imagine not doing for the rest of their lives.

For me, these conversations have fueled my own pursuit of Chado as my chosen “art.” These artists are inspirational and I see my own life reflected in these conversations. I hope you will find these points interesting and inspirational, too.

Permanent link to this article: http://issoantea.com/of-art-and-artists/

Shifuku making workshop

Shifuku are important protection for utensils, and part of temae for koicha is opening and handling of the shifuku for chaire. Each shifuku is custom fit for each utensil.  Sometimes we find utensils without a shifuku, or the shifuku is badly damaged.  Or perhaps you would like to use a bit of fabric to make a completely new shifuku.  Many famous utensils have more than one.

Shifuku Workshop

We will be holding a shifuku making workshop in March and April. The  class will be in 3 parts.

Part 1 is making measurements and drafting a pattern. Bring your utensil to the first class so we can custom fit the pattern.

Part 2 is cutting, sewing and fitting a muslin trial. You will learn sewing techniques and how to attach the cord to your shifuku, which is a little tricky.

Part 3 is making the final shifuku with brocade fabric. When you have completed the class, you will be able to draft your own patterns and sew shifuku for any number of utensils from chaire to natsume, teabowls and more.

I have left enough time between classes so you can complete your homework, or bring it to regular tea class for help.

There will be kits for sale with enough fabric to make a trial muslin and final silk brocade for an average chaire.  Batting, cord and thread to attach to the shifuku is also included with the kit for both final and muslin. For a complete supplies list go here.

No previous sewing experience in necessary.  The class will be taught by Kate and Margie

When: Saturdays, March  31, April 14, and May 5.  10:00 am- 12:00 noon
Where: Issoan Tea School
Cost: $100 for the class.  Kits available for $35.

Space is limited. To reserve your spot, please use the link at right to submit at $30 deposit.




Permanent link to this article: http://issoantea.com/shifuku-making-workshop/

From the archives

It is hard to believe that I have been writing about chado for ten years.  As I was looking through the blog archives in preparation for writing another post, I thought it might be good to highlight some of these previous posts.  Are any of these favorites?  Would you like me to cover other topics?  Would you like to guest blog?

Ten years ago:
There are no shortcuts
Order from chaos
On receiving teaching

Nine years ago:
Reduce, recycle, reuse, and repair
Pay attention to what you are doing

Eight years ago:
Knowing contentment
What do you love?

Seven years ago:
Starting over
There is more to life
The power of commitment

Six years ago:
Telling stories
Upon entering the tearoom

Five years ago:
Gomei discussion
The true way of tea
Paring back to the essential

Four years ago
White Clouds
Beginner’s heart
You have just two hands
All in

Three years ago
Letting go
10 things I learned at Midorikai
Kokoro, the heart of tea
Do your best

Two years ago
The taste of tea
The sound of boiling water
Flying geese signal autumn has come

Last year
Lifelong learning
Supporting players
Making a good bowl of koicha
The difficulty of Chado study


Permanent link to this article: http://issoantea.com/from-the-archives-5/

Passing the light

It is with heavy heart we are still mourning the loss of another member of our tea community in Portland.  June Moriyasu  sensei was a long time leader, teacher and advocate for chanoyu who passed away late last year.  It hardly seems like she is gone, only on an trip and will be back soon.  Her home was a center for teaching and workshops.  Many celebrations and events were held there as well.  I know she is well known outside our community.  She will be very much missed.

As I was looking around at Hatsugama this year, I was noticing that many of our teachers and members are in their 70s, 80s and 90s.  Some of them are no longer teaching so we only see them at events.  It has come home to me that a generation of teachers will be leaving us.  I have for a long time been the youngest teacher and now I realize that the light is being passed on to those of us coming up.

It is a big responsibility to carry on the traditions, to lead the community, and to teach others the way.  There are such wonderful examples to guide me.  I am grateful to have such an active, generous and loving tea community and I hope for many years to come that our teachers and sempai will continue to nurture us.

God speed June-sensei.  I hope you are enjoying a wonderful chakai with Minako-sensei and Taikyo.

Permanent link to this article: http://issoantea.com/passing-the-light/

Focus, attention and feedback

Before I started to study Chado, I was a flighty person with a very small attention span.  So much so that my Sensei called me ‘the flying girl’ because I was so ungrounded.  I was great at starting things, but lousy at finishing them. I even had trouble making my bed because I would become distracted before I could finish it. I had closets of artwork, writing and studies.  When I began my tea study, friends laughed because they knew it wouldn’t last.  But for some reason, tea attracted me so much that I have stuck with it for many years.

In the beginning to sit through a two hour tea lesson was difficult for me.  That is not to say I haven’t started other things that I never finished, but for a while I didn’t start new things because tea showed me how unfocused and chaotic my life was.  Through the patience of my sensei and discipline of temae, I have learned to focus my attention.   The discipline of meditation has helped, as well as consciously learning to say no to  impluses that could take me away from what I am doing until I complete it.

And yet, I still find myself daydreaming when I should be paying attention.  I have a rich imagination and inner life.  Even when I am concentrating, I still have lapses of attention.  Besides tea and meditation, two things I have taken up have helped give me feedback on my lapses of attention:  calligraphy and archery.

Both of these studies have given me instant feedback on when I am not present in these endeavors.  You can see it in the ink, every hesitation, wrong direction,  loss of brush control, stopping short or continuing when I was not supposed to.  Starting in the wrong place, not controlling my breath, or getting lost in the strokes, each show up on the paper.

Archery too, is a sport of consistency and repetition. Controlling your breathing, doing it exactly the same way each time with the same body posture and same movements and being present shows up in your results.  The slightest movement of finger or tightness of grip will affect your shot.  The smallest loss of focus affects where the arrow goes.  Recently, I had my best round  where 5 arrows all landed in an area the size of the palm of my hand, with each shaft hitting the target at exactly the same angle.  I haven’t been able to do it again since.

But these instant feedback loops show me where I have work to do.  It shows how often my mind wanders and how I can pull it back to stay focused to complete my task and do my best.  And it has the added bonus of improving my temae and making me a better chajin.

Permanent link to this article: http://issoantea.com/focus-attention-feedback/